I re-watched The Pirates of Silicon Valley a couple of weeks ago, since it had be recently released on DVD (okay, it was actually more like months ago, but whatever). Anyway, it’s one of the better made-for-TV films I’ve watched and it was just as good the second time around. I also think this movie did a lot to bring Anthony Michael Hall back into the spotlight. It’s sort of ironic that he ended up playing who so many of us (rightly or wrongly) associate as being the kind of all nerds, Bill Gates, after playing nerds in his youth and is now known for a very different character: Johnny Smith on The Dead Zone.
The film spans from the mid-seventies, when both Gates and Jobs were 20 years old, to roughly the time that Jobs was back on top at Apple and Microsoft invests in them to help them stay in business. The story shows apparent rise and fall of Jobs and the meteoric rise of Gates. A lot of the action is focused on Jobs, particularly paying attention to his personal life, as it is more dramatic. Throughout all of the sensationalism of their stories though, we can see a lot of how these two men have influenced our lives and culture.
I began to think as the film drew to a close how a sequel could be just as interesting. Apple, since Jobs’ return, has become so much of a cultural influence with the release of the iMac and later the iPod. Bill Gates has somewhat reduced his role at Microsoft, comparatively, and has moved more into social causes. Leander Kahney wrote a great opinion piece for Wired’s Cult of Mac Blog on how Gates has actually done so much more in a social sense than Jobs and wonders why so often the consensus seems to be more in favor of Jobs. I have always found it interesting that Jobs, for all intents and purpose, is a man of vision instead of technical skill. I agree, he recognized how important personal computers could be, then again, so did Bill Gates. Unlike Gates, though, Jobs never actually wrote or designed any of Apples products1. Gates always seemed to have a tenacious business sense, but not always the vision of what consumers might want or use (remember how he seemed to not get the internet as extension of an open society?). I think the two men actually compliment one another and Heaven help us should they decide to run a company together. Then again, I don’t think egos that have had all this time to grow play very well together.
This also reminds me that I really want to read Andy Hertzfeld’s book Revolution in the Valley. Anyone know of any good books about Bill Gates and the history of Microsoft?
- This statement is, to the best of my knowledge, true. I’m sure some fanboy of Apple or Microsoft would be happy to correct me. [↩]